A fire safety lesson gone wrong threatened the lives of a mother and her two young children while they slept in the early hours of yesterday.
Featherston Fire Brigade chief Colin McKenna said the fire at the South Wairarapa cottage was caused by fire ash left on the back porch, which ignited and caught the back wall and roof of the home, including a gas bottle.
An explosion heard by neighbours is thought to have been the hose of the gas bottle exploding.
Joy Mebus owns the cottage in Western Lake, South Wairarapa, and rents it to a mother and her two children, aged 9 and 10.
She understood the mum had been teaching her children about fire safety the night before.
They had cleared ashes from the fireplace after the lesson, and then left them on a barbecue on a back porch. It is thought the hose of the gas bottle caught fire and exploded.
"About 5.30am, I heard this woosh and I thought there was a balloon going up the air.
I flew out of bed on to my balcony, but didn't think anything more."
Herd manager Gary Sullivan, who had just finished milking and also heard the "woosh", jumped on his quad bike, raced over to the house and woke up the family before calling the fire brigade, said Ms Mebus.
"He's the real hero," she said.
Mr Sullivan used a hose on the fire, and Mr McKenna said his quick thinking helped contain the flames until the brigade were able to travel the 25km from Featherston to extinguish it.
Ms Mebus said the fire brigade, neighbours Neville and Annie Davies and Mr Sullivan had done an amazing job.
It was lucky no one was hurt and a reminder that ashes and embers take 10 days to cool and should be put in water. "I'm just grateful that nothing happened to them. I don't care about the rest, I'm insured, and even if I have to lose my excess, it's not worth lives."By Tessa Johnstone of the Wairarapa Times Age